(We’re not quite done with Ray Allen just yet. We announced him as our top Milwaukee Bucks player of the past 20 years on Tuesday. Today, Josh Hilgendorf has his own take on Ray Allen. And we have more Ray Allen lined up for later this week. – JS)
Choosing the top 20 Bucks’ players of the past 20 years was a pretty tough task. Choosing the best? Not so much. Ray Allen was the clear choice and nobody else was even close. It was his addition that turned things around for Milwaukee. Allen came to town and all of a sudden the Bucks started winning. The team went from a .305 winning percentage the year before his arrival to a .634 winning percentage in only his fifth season.
Of course, Allen was about more than just wins and losses. He had that picture perfect jump shot. He unleashed his fair share of fierce dunks. Above all, Allen gave the Bucks a player to counter the superstars of the NBA. No game exemplified this better than Ray’s epic duel with Allen Iverson in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Although Iverson outscored Allen 46-41, Milwaukee came out on top in that game.
The media attention, however brief and small it was, Allen brought to the Bucks should also not be discounted. In addition to what he did on the court, he also co-starred in the ridiculously awesome He Got Game alongside Denzel Washington. Outside of Shaq and MJ, how many NBA players can you say played a major role in a widely released movie?
Along with all of the good, Allen is also connected to one of my lowest points as a Bucks fan.
I was watching ESPN News when they reported he had been traded to Seattle for Gary Payton. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I thought there was a mistake. Then I just got really sad. I remember calling my two friends who were also fans of the team and just venting. We were 15 years old at the time so our conversation assuredly featured a lot of “worst trade ever” type talk. I moped around for what today seemed like weeks, but was actually probably only a couple days. “How could the Bucks do this to me?” my teenage mind wondered.
Then a funny thing happened. Payton and Desmond Mason suited up for their first game as a Buck on Feb. 22. And what do you know? They won. Payton had 22 points and nine assists. Mason showed the athleticism that made him such an exciting player in Seattle. No matter how much I loved Allen, I realized I was a Bucks fan first. No matter who they throw out on the court or how many times they trade my favorite player, my loyalty will remain. I also realized just because Allen was miles away in Washington, it would be pretty easy to follow him via the Internet. Although I couldn’t watch him every game, I didn’t completely lose the player I had enjoyed watching.
Looking back on the trade now, I still don’t like it from a Bucks perspective, but it is far from the “worst trade ever” that my young self once proclaimed. Things clearly weren’t working with Allen and George Karl. Some sort of shake up was necessary. Did that mean Milwaukee had to trade away its best player? No, absolutely not, but it makes it a little easier to see why the trade was made. In addition, the trade ushered in the Michael Redd era. With Allen gone, Redd was able to step into the starting shooting guard role and brought us a few years of excellent production. There is a good chance Redd would have been relegated to a sixth man role for his formidable years if Allen was never moved. Or maybe Redd would have been the one traded. Either way, we would not have had the experience we did with Redd if Allen remained on the Bucks.
Allen will forever hold a special place for me. He was the guy who was the best player when I really started to love the Bucks. For most former Milwaukee players, my interest for them fades when they leave the team. Allen was an exception. As soon as I could find one, I purchased a poster of Allen as a Sonic. It still hangs on my bedroom wall in my parent’s house…right next to my poster of Ray as a Buck.
How did you feel about the Ray trade at the time? How do you feel about it now?
Josh Hilgendorf is a contributor to Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.